Navigating the Native American Cannabis Opportunity

Elevation, which opened 11/12 in Washington, is the first Native American cannabis dispensary
Elevation, which opened 11/12 in Washington, is the first Native American cannabis dispensary

Leafly, known for its strain reviews, has posted a fantastic summary of some of the successes and the several stumbles among several efforts of Native American tribes to enter the cannabis industry.  Entrepreneurs looking to partner with tribes should recognize that it is a huge gray area despite the Wilkinson Memorandum from 2014 that clarified that the Cole Memorandum rules applied to Native Americans as well.  As the article points out:

2015 began with high hopes for a new marijuana economy on tribal lands. Eleven months later, however, that optimism has been tempered by a series of puzzling and possibly illegal federal raids. Publicly, the federal government has given the all-clear to the nation’s 566 officially recognized Native American tribes to grow and sell cannabis on their land. But on the ground, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) are using questionable legal tactics to quash cannabis and hemp projects on reservations around the nation.

Even if you have been following some of these stories, the article does a good job of summarizing the setbacks, which include the Flandreau Santee Sioux project in South Dakota and the Menominee Indian Tribe’s hemp grow in Wisconsin.  There have been some raids in California as well.

One big takeaway is that it is likely easiest for tribes to engage in business in states that are legal.  At a minimum, having a medical cannabis program may reduce risk.  The article points to the pending opening of the Suquamish Tribe dispensary in Washington.  We shared a story recently about Elevation, which opened last week and is operated by the Squaxin Island Tribe, also in Washington.  In both cases, the tribes worked with the state in advance of opening. We also recently discussed the potential vertically-integrated project by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon, another fully legal state.

Read “Report from the Front: The Trouble with Cannabis in Indian Country”:

Published by NCV Newswire
NCV Newswire
The NCV Newswire by New Cannabis Ventures aims to curate high quality content and information about leading cannabis companies to help our readers filter out the noise and to stay on top of the most important cannabis business news. The NCV Newswire is hand-curated by an editor and not automated in anyway. Have a confidential news tip? Get in touch.

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